June 24, 2008

5 Reasons to Like Digital Over Film

Here's a fun look at a few benefits everyone can agree on...
  • Less printing = less paper use = lower tree use
  • Reusable 'film' = lower cost and less to recycle
  • Quality of digital printing has passed that of film
  • No darkroom chemicals! Well, at least in the home.
  • Instant image preview = less wasted shots (back to #1)
Yes, there is more to be said, and there is still plenty of room for film, no doubt. But just like when color changed the photographic world's view, digital has changed it's entire process, and can reduce the carbon footprint, to boot. Now there's a positive change!

June 21, 2008

My Other Bio

If you've read the Bio page on my main site you know a little about my interests and work with photography. Here is a bit more about me.
  • Full time career: training and development
  • Private Pilot license and Aircraft Dispatcher license
  • B.A. from Ohio State U in Social and Behavioral Science, majoring in aviation management
  • Very involved in Christian ministry; I teach a Bible study, for example
  • Some of my other interests are reading, various arts, a wide variety of music, writing, hiking and camping, technology like learning to write CSS and HTML, graphics, and even home improvement (picture Tim Allen)
Professionally, I have even more info in my profile on Linked In.

June 20, 2008

Equipment I Use

Okay, at least one person will ask, so here's a short list of stuff I currently use.
- Canon EOS 400D (Digital Rebel XTi)
- Canon SX10is
- Canon 50mm f1.4 prime, 28-105mm zoom, and 75-300mm zoom lenses
- Sigma 18-50mm zoom
- Dedicated on-camera flash (Canon 430EX II and Promaster 5750)
- For some studio-like work I use a Photogenic PL1500 monolight

I like to use whatever is at my disposal, too. I've taken some amazing shots with the family point-and-shoot, a Canon A550. Even my son's refurbished Fuji A610 is a great little tool. Going back a bit, some of the images on my site were taken with an Olympus C5050z, and others were taken with Pentax or Canon 35mm film SLR's and later scanned.

On the "dark room" side I currently use a Dell 9100 Pentium 4 3mHz PC with 3gb RAM and a 256mb video card feeding an Ultra Sharp flat panel. I arrange photo libraries and edit images with Canon Digital Photo Professsional, Picasa, and Adobe Photoshop.

For photo storage I use dual internal hard drives, plus an external hard drive and DVD backups. In addition, all photos on my web site are backed up on three servers in three states by the site host, SmugMug.

So there you have it; the main stuff I use. Ultimately, great photography transcends whatever gear is used to make it, and I strive not to get caught up in the latest tech trends or gadget goodies. The stuff is fun, no doubt, but the art is far more satisfying!

June 4, 2008

Why I Chose SmugMug to Host the Site

I was looking for a single solution for both web site hosting and e-commerce in order to automate a part time photography business and provide image storage and sharing for my personal work. None of the free services (Snapfish, Fotki, etc.) had all the features I was looking for, even with their paid services.

After an exhaustive analysis of many vendors, I narrowed it down to four within a certain price bracket and did a decision matrix using 21 weighted factors to evaluate them. SmugMug came out on top and every day I find another reason to be glad I chose them. It’s a surprisingly well-built service, run by great people, and it beats some higher-priced vendors at that! I won’t explain their offerings here since they do a fine job of that on their site; suffice to say their model is the best I found at a reasonable cost for hosting both amateur and professional photographers’ sites. It’s worth every penny.

If you're curious about the decision matrix and the factors I used, let me know and I'll send you a copy. Interesting process.

The New Oldness of the Biz

If you know me you probably know that I was a part time pro photographer a few years back (SharpShooter Photography), then stopped doing paid work when my first child was born. In fact, I stopped for other reasons, too, such as a need to refocus my energies and allegiances as ministry with the church took on a larger role in my life. I wanted to follow God first, then let the hobbies fall where they may.

So why restart the biz today? Simply put, I enjoy it and enjoy serving people. And unlike just a few years ago today there are better web-based management systems, not the least of which is the e-commerce enabled site that I’ve built with SmugMug. So why not? If it works out, great, and if it never becomes a huge thing, so be it. One thing I know is that it’s pretty likely I’ll always take pictures, and sharing that talent for a few bucks here and there is a nice way to augment the hobby. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes.


Touchy subject, retouching. Most of us don’t mind a bit having the photographer do some airbrushing to clean up acne, etc. But then there was a friend of mine who got professional engagement portraits done, and was enraged that the photographer erased the birthmark that slightly discolors half his face. Turns out he’s perfectly comfortable with it – it’s a part of who he is and he wanted it in the picture, never thinking the studio would go so far as to erase it (they did an amazing job, by the way). What was the mistake? Simple; the studio didn’t ask him first.

Here’s how I handle it. I ask each client how they feel about retouching, and explain that I am a minimalist with it as a default setting. Like my friend, I believe the real person is more that just what they look like in a picture, and capturing the person means allowing some of nature’s little so-called imperfections remain. But on the other hand, there is a reason I ask first; some people get professional portraits because they actually want to be made to look ‘better’, and that’s understandable, too.

So you be the judge. Not only will I give you the option up front, but after I post your pictures for review/purchase on my site you can feel totally free to ask for more or less retouching, too. I’m happy to accommodate your preferences.

By the way this applies right back at me! Being a guy, it’s not too easy to wear makeup for the occasional snap shot I appear in. And the one feature I always dislike in pictures if me is the fine effort by nature to make me appear tired; those dark circles around my eyes caused by allergies. In fact, for some reason pictures seem to make them look worse than in real life, and that’s a solid reason for retouching. A little electronic airbrush goes a long way for those. Yes, even with my belief in “natural” portrayal I still make an adjustment or two on myself.

Where’s the Studio?

Since I shoot in my spare time I don’t run a studio, nor do I rent one, although for the right assignment it’s certainly an option. I do have studio equipment, however, and can set it up anywhere. It’s fun to play with but for the bulk of my portrait work I prefer natural settings with natural light. It’s just nicer looking, and it provides scenic environments that no manufactured backdrop could do. For business portraits, certainly a studio-like setting is most common, so that’s one reason I keep a supply of studio gear. But for kids, engagement photos, and most others I’ve found plenty of better looking settings in the local parks and city scenes of Columbus. If you hire me to do portraits I’ll work with you and we’ll choose the venue based on your preferences.

Makeup and Styling

I’ve been asked if I use a stylist for my subjects, and the answer is no – I much prefer to capture the person for who they are than for just what they look like. Quick studio makeovers are, bear with me here, usually cheesy. They almost always use fad styles, which may or may not suit the person. When I look at a portrait and wonder “wow, is that really you?” I have to ask myself if it’s really a portrait vs. an artistic reinterpretation. I guess both have their place, and what you want is what counts.

So with that said, there is a place for makeup and wardrobe for sure, especially for modeling portfolios and some professional applications; I’ll never argue with that. The bottom line; a photographer should always provide the client what they want.

So if you want to be presented in your pictures looking utterly stunning, I’m all for it; you’ll just need to take care of makeup and/or wardrobe on your own; I’ll focus on capturing the images. And if you like to be more natural looking, more like yourself yet presented in a pleasing, beautiful way, that’s my favorite. Every portrait example in my People gallery is done that way – makeup was minimal or the norm for the subject.The next post is related.

Model Portfolios

I don’t hire models since I don’t do stock or commercial work in which I would need them, but I’m happy to work with you. Based on copyright law and best practices there are two commonly used options:

Option 1: hire me. In this scenario it’s a typical portrait session, so I maintain copyright but cannot sell the images for commercial use without your consent via a signed release. I never ask paying clients to sign a release because I don’t market their images (though the artist always has the right to display their work).

Option 2: trade time for images. If you would like to model without paying or being paid, this is a good alternative. The photographer does the shoot in exchange for a signed release, which allows them to market the images commercially. Since I don’t sell stock photography (yet) I only do this on a limited basis to build my portfolio.